“Jonathan Winn’s concept is full of potential: an apartment building that seems to cater to tenants with dark secrets or dark desires/impulses. An eerie presence lingers within the walls and halls, with the ability to manifest the hidden inclinations of its’ residents in horrific ways. Each volume of EIDOLON AVENUE contains five stories, focusing on a single floor of the five-story structure and what goes on behind each of the five apartment doors. Winn explores and exploits that concept in terrifying fashion. His descriptions and imagery throughout this collection drip with creativity.
There is a sub-genre within horror fiction described as “body horror”: no monsters or supernatural elements, just a violation of the human body whether physical or mental. In most cases, this sub-genre is the most frightening and disturbing. I haven’t read extensively in this category, but I believe EIDOLON AVENUE: THE SECOND FEAST deserves a seat at the head table. I’d recommend this to anyone curious and interested to explore what this sub-genre has to offer fans of horror fiction.
The best stories in this collection were also the most horrifying examples of body horror as well as the two tales that will linger and torment my thoughts for some time to come:”
Summer 2015. Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast is completed and with the publisher. Edits done. Cover finished. Release date being decided. Work on Eidolon Two has begun.
And I’m laying on the floor in my living room staring at the ceiling fan spinning.
I may never move from this spot.
My 18-year old dachshund, who I adored, died suddenly in June. The hole her absence left in my life is indescribable. That same week a friend I loved dearly succumb to suicide at the too-young age of 31. I’m kicking myself for not knowing how deep his hurt was. And I’ve lost another friend for reasons I’ll never understand.
In short, I have no more words.
Since 2011, I’ve written three screenplays, the full-length novels Martuk the Holy and Martuk the Holy: Proseuche, the first three books of The Martuk Series, several short stories, three other books under a pseudonym, and then Eidolon. At this point, everything hurts. My heart hurts. My brain hurts. Even taking a breath hurts.
And I can’t stop fighting the tears. I should cry but that hurts, too.
Of course eventually I move. I get up and walk quietly through life content that at least one Eidolon was written and will be released. I try to find comfort in that. Assure myself that the world doesn’t want a second one. Who cares? People will go on and forget me and who cares?
Obviously I’m depressed. Grappling with the fact that my life as a writer is over.
Over the next two, three years – my publisher amazing and patient and absolutely wonderful – I’d open the Eidolon Two files to see if I could dive in. Or even sneak in, on tip-toes, unnoticed. Slip in a few words here and there. The guilt of this unfinished thing haunting me, but it’s impossible. There’s this huge psychological block. It’s all wrapped up with missing my dachshund Cinnamon, and mourning the too-young theft of Max, and the confusion around the Friend Who Left.
It’s pain. But not the kind of pain that feeds Eidolon. It was the kind that made me gasp, and wince, and quickly close the file, convinced, again, Eidolon’s dead.
It’s dead. Let it die. Leave it be.
It was also that voice screaming in my head that I couldn’t do this anymore, that I’d never do this again, and that no one cared anyway, so why bother?
And then I noticed something: people did care. Readers would reach out, asking about Eidolon Two and I’d reply with one weak excuse after another, the shame of my weakness and inability to snap out of this stupor growing. The publisher would touch base. The editor would sneak in, on tip-toes, with perfectly placed words of kindness and encouragement.
So, with the voice screaming insults, I started writing again. A bit here, some more there. Apartment 1 done. Apartment 2 finished. Apartment 3 locked and loaded. Everything taking so much longer than I used to, than it should. Apartment 4 still wrapped in confusion. Apartment 5 = no clue.
And bit by bit, I wrote. And the voice quieted. Never went silent, of course. But became background noise. Apartment 3 polished. Apartment 4 clear. Apartment 5 = an interesting idea I can play with.
Inch by inch, month by month, it all came together.
And now, on Launch Day, here we are. A book that almost died several summers ago, that I was sure would never be finished, that I had accepted was done and dusted and over, is actually alive and well and living.
So why the missive? Why share all this?
Because it’s important – even if no one reads this; even if this is simply words scattered on the electronic page for my own benefit – to never forget how deep into the abyss I fell. To remember that even in the darkness of constant hurt and terrifying silence, I found my way out. I put words on the page. First, tentative words. Bad words. Words I deleted and then left blank.
But then there were more words. Good words. Strong words. Evocative and intriguing words.
Words I could live with. Words that worked. And now words that people are liking. Right now.
And a day that almost never came did come. And that’s something to be celebrated.
“As I read each story, I found myself filled with a building awe and growing dread as characters were revealed and events unfolded. This, of course, was followed by shock and/or horror at the respective climax and conclusion of each tale, which varied accordingly. The story of apartment 2B in particular was uncomfortably evocative, while the story of 2C might need a warning label for those of sensitive emotional constitutions.” — Bibliophilia Templum
“So, you have a lot of books.” The old man from the bookstore–Kaszalo, perhaps?–was watching her. His eyes clear and bright, but narrow as if he was studying her. Trying to look deeper. Beyond her pauses. Past her silence. Into her soul.
“I don’t know.” She stared at the floor. Wondered what time it was.
She stood in the bookstore. Although the day was dark, the clouds gray, the sidewalks were dry. She’d turned a lot of corners to be here, her route more circuitous than direct. The hesitant, wide circling of a plane reluctant to land. The target known and sighted, but the end of the journey still in doubt. Decisions still being made. Possible routes still being planned. Escapes still being plotted.
Until, having landed, she stood once again in a valley, shadowed by towering shelves of dusty spines and faded pages.
“Not a reader?” he said after a brief pause.
“Oh no, no, I am.” She raked her fingers through her hair. A nervous tick, the old guy creeping her out despite her having been there for less than five minutes. “But it’s all Kindle. A lot easier that way.” She chuckled.
He did not.
“But those aren’t books,” he said.
“Of course they are.” Raising her head, she caught his eye. Challenged him.
Why was she here? She found herself considering how to leave. Politely.
He grinned. “What I mean is the life is different when the body, the book, is, what, a computer tablet? A teeny-tiny phone?” A long sigh. “Pages, real pages, have a hunger to them. A need that isn’t answered when you push a button or, well, whatever it is you do with a whatchamacallit.”
“Right. A Kindle. Books are greedy to be read. They’re desperate. That electronic stuff?” He shrugged. “It doesn’t have the feel of the page. It can’t feast on your senses. Your hopes. Your dreams.” A pause as he watched her. “You see?”
She didn’t, really, but she nodded anyway. A book was a book. Paper, electronic, whatever. Words were words.
“You know, I think I may have something,” he said, standing from the bookcase. “Here, follow me.” Angling past her, he rushed down the aisle.
“I’m good,” she said. She turned toward the exit. “I really should be going.”
Ignoring her, he marched. “It’ll just take a moment.”
Impatient but intrigued, the absence of a book in her still smarting, and with no one else to see and nowhere else to be, she followed.
They turned a corner, and then a second, passing one bookcase after another, her balding, stoop-backed sherpa guiding her through one canyon after another. Bookcases, in some, standing so high the shelves at the top faded into shadow, the stories they held abandoned to the dark, no matter how greedy and desperate their pages.
Then, turning a final corner, the dark thickets of a final valley navigated, they stopped.
They were at the back of the store, the space much longer than she’d first thought. Before them, tucked between two immense bookcases, was an entrance, a small room of books waiting. A clearing, she thought, in this world of canyons and valleys and towering stacks.
“Your recent stuff?” She stuck her head in. Looked around.
“Not as used or as old,” he said. “But more interesting.” He paused. “You can go in, if you like.”
It called to her, the room. The compact space feeling as large as a luxury walk-in closet, the walls, were she to stretch her arms, fingertip to fingertip, spanning out of her reach. The pale leather of the books felt familiar. The low shelves safe. The gentle lighting kind.
This is a room desperate to be calm, she found herself thinking. And failing, an odd feeling in the air reminding her of a half-captured scent warning of danger in the distance but still somehow near. Only this feeling, this scent, masked an unseen chaos. One she couldn’t put her finger on but knew existed. In the margins, running off the pages, tucked in the corners. Out of sight.
Ignoring the tenuous obvious, she stepped through.
He remained, standing, heels in the aisle.
As she noticed earlier, where the shelves in the outer, more public rooms overwhelmed with their size, these did not. The ceiling low, the books sat at eye level, beginning not on the floor, but right below her knees. The sconces at the door not tarnished but burnished bright. The room lit with nothing but their glow.
She moved close, scanning the sallow spines, one looking much like the other. Raised a hand. Paused.
“You fear not having a book in you, yes?” A gentle smile from the man watching from the door.
Saying nothing, she scanned the shelves. Lingered on the bone-white glow of the books. Some slender, hinting perhaps at quiet lives sharing easy stories half-told. Their slender spines dwarfed by their wider neighbors. Width, perhaps, promising more within their pages. Of louder lives teeming with breathless sagas and lessons well-learned.
“It’s a common fear, that.” He took a step into the room. “Especially with those who appear quiet at first glance but live their lives loudly on the inside.” A small smile. Another step. “Oftentimes, and this is what I’ve found, visiting someone else’s story can give one the courage to find their voice. To share their own tales.” He clasped his hands in front of him, the fingers laced into fists resting below his hips. “To write their own books.”
Reaching to a shelf, he lifted a book. Neither heavy nor slender, he cradled it for a moment, his wrinkled fingers–flesh the color of Margo’s creamer, knotted knuckles swollen and blushing pink–splayed spine to edge making her think of a ravenous spider.
He handed it to her.
“Take this home,” he said, his palm hushing her. “Flip through the pages, see what catches your eye. See if it catches you. See if it nudges you to put pen to page. If so, return it with gratitude, knowing these stories have done their job. If not, return it with gratitude, having done your best to find yourself in these pages even if you fail.”
“And what happens if I just disappear? Like, totally not return it?”
He laughed. “In all my years, that has never happened to me.” A smile, his eyes gleaming. “I will see you again. And soon.”
The book nestled in the crook of her elbow, she opened it. Ran her fingers over the pages. Felt their thickness. Their heaviness. Marveled at how luxurious it would be to sit, legs crossed under her comforter, the night windy and wet outside her window as, safe inside, she slowly turned these pages, hot tea with honey within reach.
She tried not to smile.
“Yes,” he’d said, his voice wavering in the silence of the small room. “This is where you’ll find what you need.”
“Thank you.” Reaching in her pocket, she brought out her cellphone. “I, uh, I have class,” she lied, glancing at an alarm that didn’t exist. “Forgive me.”
“Until next time,” he said, the words a gentle purr that sent a shudder up her spine. The words, though kind, somehow feeling odd and ominous. “When we shall discuss your book.”
Nodding, she turned and, brushing past him, careful and polite, headed for the door, bone-white book in hand.
Moving her hand closer to the candle flame, she winced.
“Most holy Apostle, Saint Jude Thaddeus, friend of Jesus, I place myself in your care at this difficult time. Help me know that I need not face my troubles alone.”
It was well past midnight. Morning was still hours away. She refused her bed. While Cynthia Sue and the other students lay safely tucked in sleep, she knelt in penitent prayer, her words endless, whispered, repeated, hour after hour, to the callous moon and silent stars.
Or lay prone on the floor, her forehead to the wood, her arms out, her legs straight. Ignoring the crook in her neck and the roughness of the cold wood. Knowing these worldly discomforts were a small price to pay for her cruelty.
But tonight she’d crept to the chapel, her bare feet cold on the stone, the crucifix looming over the altar casting the longest of shadows in the moonlight as she’d stumbled her way to the Saints. And there she stood, her palm burning red over the candle flames, the other bandaged and throbbing and weeping, while Sisters and Mother Superiors dreamt guiltless dreams of salvation and peace.
Pausing, she exhaled. “Please join me in my need, Saint Jude Thaddeus, asking God to send me consolation in my sorrow, courage in my fear, and healing in the midst of my suffering.”
She gritted her teeth, welcoming the sting of fire eating flesh. The bright flame licking past thin, tender skin to succulent muscle, blood-soaked vein, stubborn tendon and, soon, she hoped, the paradise of white, gleaming bone.
“Ask our loving Lord to fill me with the grace to accept whatever may lie ahead for me and my loved ones, and—”
Moving her hand closer to the flame, she fought back tears. Exhaled long and slow. Hoped, for the smallest of moments, for the sweet release of death.
“And to strengthen my faith in God’s healing powers.”
She thought of her hand, then, blistering red. “Thank you, Saint Jude Thaddeus …” The helpless flesh swelling in protest, desperate to escape the flames. “For the promise of hope you hold out to all who believe …” She thought of the pain to come later, when the hours grew long, as the blister spread and broke and wept. “And inspire me to give this gift of hope to others …” The weeks of agony and then discomfort as it healed, the wound cracking and weeping anew whenever she clasped her hands in prayer or made an accidental fist. “As it has been given to me.”
And then she moved it closer to the flame.
“Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast is a tight collection of nightmare imagery bound to follow you long after the final page is turned. One absorbing tale after another, culminating in a horror event you cannot put down. Eidolon Avenue makes Elm Street look like Sesame Street.”
“Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast is a tight collection of nightmare imagery bound to follow you long after the final page is turned. One absorbing tale after another, culminating in a horror event you cannot put down. Eidolon Avenue makes Elm Street look like Sesame Street.” — Rex Hurst, author of WHAT HELL MAY COME
“Pages, real pages, have a hunger to them. A need that isn’t answered when you push a button or, well, whatever it is you do with a whatchamacallit.”
“Right. A Kindle. Books are greedy to be read. They’re desperate. That electronic stuff?” He shrugged. “It doesn’t have the feel of the page. It can’t feast on your senses. Your hopes. Your dreams.” A pause as he watched her. “You see?” — words ingathering – Apt. 2E – Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast
An excerpt from the third apartment in Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast, coming March 26th.
“For someone in your situation, this apartment really couldn’t be better.” Fourteen days ago he sat with the man, this realtor, coffees in hand, the tsunami of chaotic chatter still hours away. “I mean, really, it’s perfect.”
The crudely sketched floor plan for the far-from-perfect one-bedroom on Eidolon Avenue lay between them, a pen and a creased envelope which, he assumed, held the lease right next to that.
To say the apartment was small was an understatement. The nearby snapshots showed a dark, forbidding space. Walls either stained and yellowed with age or hiding their shame in shadow. Wood floors scratched from neglect and scuffed from the lonely shuffling of too many feet.
From the window facing the street to the door leading outside to the hall, he guessed there might be, maybe, a handful of steps. Perhaps fourteen, fifteen.
His life reduced to a handful of steps in the crappy crackhead part of town.
He faced the annoying Adonis who refused to look him in the eye.
“My situation?” He watched the man who sat, overpriced grande cold brew in hand. Waited for him to respond. Knew what would be said–the maelstrom of innuendo and lies surrounding him now notorious–but was still curious how the words would tumble out. Watched this twenty-something with the arrogant thick hair and the nauseating white of a dazzling smile. Tried to ignore the superhero square jaw and the broad shoulders and rounded biceps rudely bulging beneath the hundred-dollar jacket.
Broad shoulders and bulging biceps that would no doubt dampen little Miss Venti-Double-Shot-Light-Whip-Mocha’s panties.
“You know,” the handsome stranger said, the words at last finding the courage to tumble though his gaze remained on the cup, the folder. The crude floor plan with its handful of steps taunting him from its place on the table. “All that stuff or, you know, whatever over at Saint George’s or something, I mean, anyway, whatever, you know …”
Sudden silence as Twenty-Something glanced past him, in the distance. To the bored baristas. The bags of coffee on display. The over-large windows. The heavy glass door. On anything but the disgrace seated opposite him, the brilliant blue eyes refusing him.
Rejecting the paunch straining against his belt. The sallowness of his skin. The tired eyes and thin lips. Rejecting the uneven stubble marring his cheeks and his rounded chin. The wispy strands of not-quite-blond hair clinging to his scalp. High and thin in front, the back long and scraggly against the yellowed collar of his one good shirt. Rejecting the shoulders more sunken than square, the biceps far from bulging.
The jacket a wrinkled relic from the life he’d lost.
He took another glance at the pictures, the floor plan. Imagined, for a brief moment, the life to be had there in those two rooms with its warped wood and small, dusty windows. He winced, hating the thought, the familiar taste of defeat worming down his throat.
But it’d be a life without the wife. Without the marital mistake. A life of his own. He paused. Imagined, for a second, the freedom to be himself, to be true. Authentic. The freedom to entertain. To even tutor in the privacy of his own home.
Paint would cover the stains. A rug would cover the floors. Open windows and a good breeze would clear away the dust. Lighted candles could scent the air and lift the mood. Perhaps one of his students, one of many who’d come, eager for his help, his guidance, his company, his wit and strength, would help the place feel alive. Bring their small gifts. Show their appreciation in ways both large and small. Sit near him, their naked knees teasing his, as he taught them, guided them. Helped them discover their true, authentic selves.
This depressing dark hole could become his own perfect patch of paradise.
Moving beyond the one-dimensional image of what it was, what it appeared to be, he allowed himself to climb into the dream of what it could be. What he’d make it. Allowed the space to open to him. To tell him what it wanted to be. Maybe what it was meant to be. Allowed it to speak to him, to call him.
Could he be happy here, he wondered.
Could he be his true self surrounded by what his body, his heart, his soul, his desires craved?
And from the snapshots, the dark responded.
Yes, came the answer from the floors, the walls, the low ceiling and narrow windows. An impossible whisper which stole, like an exhalation, through the quiet of the cafe to speak. To give voice to that hidden something he could feel waiting for him in the shadows.
“I’ll take it,” he heard himself say, watching the pen in hand sign his name, the signature scratching above the dotted line feeling odd and removed and not like his own.